AT&T tests open wifi network in Texas

  • June 7, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

AT&T has completed a proof-of-concept trial of its wifi network with Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) OpenRoaming in areas of downtown Austin, Texas, along 6th street and outside of Stubbs BBQ.

The network aims to showcases the future of public wifi, where OpenRoaming provides secure, automatic and friction-free access to any device using a public wifi network.

AT&T is the first major operator to trial deployment of OpenRoaming in a high-density city network. It frees users from constantly re-registering or re-entering log-in credentials enabling the convenience of instant network access, enterprise-grade security and a carrier-grade wifi experience.

Widespread easy access to public wifi in Austin lets residents easily access services in the downtown area. While this is initially a trial proof of concept, in future the vision for OpenRoaming is one in which citizens will be able to stay connected in virtually any location across a city without worrying about potential security risks, ensuring cities and public spaces are more friendly to businesses, visitors and residents alike.

Future deployments could see public wifi access in schools and libraries and other public domains, as demonstrated in Europe with the WiFi4EU initiatives, enabling secure access to the internet for research, schooling and business activities. The Canary Wharf deployment in the UK has already transformed the business district into a connected hub, allowing citizens from street level to high rise offices stay seamlessly connected with OpenRoaming enabled wifi.

Hotels, conference centres, restaurants, bars and retailers could benefit from OpenRoaming technology. Good wifi, for instance, remains one of the top three reasons individuals choose one hotel over another. The technology also presents brands with countless opportunities to increase consumer engagement as they become part of a connected city experience, such as promoting special offers to individuals when they are near the premises.

“This trial is the first step to proving WBA OpenRoaming technology in a dense, urban location,” said Tiago Rodrigues, CEO of WBA. “This will be further developed during the summer of 2021 and commercial developments will come onboard.”

OpenRoaming eliminates the hassle of re-registering or re-entering log-in credentials because it doesn’t rely on mac addressing to enable users to join a network. Instead, users are automatically, securely and privately connected every time they’re within range of an OpenRoaming hotspot, including AT&T’s wifi-certified Passpoint network in Austin.

“A cultural hotspot like downtown Austin deserves the ultimate wifi hotspot: one that requires zero effort to access public wifi automatically, securely and reliably,” said JR Wilson, AT&T vice president. “That’s exactly the kind of user experience AT&T is providing with wifi-certified Passpoint and WBA OpenRoaming. Once again, we’ve raised the bar for speed, security and convenience.”

Founded in 2003, the WBA aims to drive seamless, interoperable service experiences via wifi within the global wireless ecosystem. Its mission is to enable collaboration between service providers, technology companies, cities, regulators and organisations. Membership is comprised of operators, identity providers and technology companies.

The WBA board includes AT&T, Boingo Wireless, British Telecom, Broadcom, Cisco Systems, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, GlobalReach Technology, Google, Intel, Reliance Jio, SK Telecom and Viasat.